A Welsh Revolution

Here's a tracklist of sorts for the Traw & Emma Macey performance on the Thursday night. Some of these things may have been recognisable, others might not. And they're certainly not in the right order...

Various Artists: Parsel Persain
Various Artists: Dial M For Merthyr
Various Artists: Hwyrnos Glansevin
Various Artists: Disc A Dawn
Gari Williams: Galw Gari
Trebor Edwards: Ychydig Hedd
Y Cyrff: Cymru Lloegr A Llanrwst EP
Dafydd Iwan: Bod Yn Rhydd
Hogia Llandegai: Caneuon Gorau
Hogia'r Wyddfa: Croeso'n Ol
Sioned Williams: Harp Music By John Parry
Fr. Francis of Pantasaph: I Watch The Sunrise
Shakin' Stevens: This Ole House
Pontarddulais Male Choir: Glory In The Valley
Acid Casuals: Filthy Pitch
Cofi Bach A Tew Shady: Bach A Tew EP
Rhodri Davies & Ingar Zach: Ieirll
Islwyn Ffowc Elis: Improve Your Welsh
Shirley Bassey: Something
Tom Jones: Green Green Grass of Home
Super Furry Animals: Phantom Power
Y Tebot Piws: Blaenau Ffestiniog EP
Yr Hennessy's: Cymru Rydd EP
Tony Ac Aloma: Dim Ond Ti A Mi EP
Eirlys Parry a Hywel Evans: Blodau'r Grug
René Griffiths: Y Frwydr EP
Parti Menlli: Barry John EP

Experimentica- Day 5 - Authenticity, fragments of Wales, and the spectacular body

On this last day of Experimentica in Cardiff, several of the pieces directly engaged with issues of Welsh identity, but in a surprisingly fragmented way. Rowan O’Neill’s ‘Cerdded Adre’ (‘The Long Walk Home’) is an auto-historical telling of the performance’s own coming into being, interspersed with short, self-contained performance moments accompanied by O’Neill singing in English and Welsh. These include the soaking of her grandfather’s cardigan in salt water; a slow and painful walk across strewn rocks and shells; and the dousing of earth with milk to create a muddy paste which is smeared on the wall and on O’Neill’s body. Throughout, the piece has an easy, conversational style and is punctuated with self-deprecating humour: as O’Neill prepares to wipe the milk-soaked earth on the wall, she says quietly, ‘This isn’t shit.’

‘Cerdded Adre’ wrestles with ideas of Welshness, performance, and fakery. O’Neill brings together accounts of the ‘Welsh Not’ used to punish the speaking of Welsh in schools; cultural critic Raymond Williams’ critique of the exploitation masked by the idealisation of the pastoral; and Iolo Morganwg, founding figure of Welsh bardic culture (embodied in the Eisteddfod festival), and also voted ‘Greatest Welsh Faker’ in a 2003 poll. O’Neill reflects critically on her own choices and intentions as an artist. What comes across is the sense that the only way to be authentically ‘Welsh’ is to realise that Welshness itself is a performance.

In ‘Capeli Crannog’, sonic arts collective Gwrando create a shrine to lost Welsh music. Dozens of record players and countless old records (predominantly church songs) were salvaged from streets, skips, and charity shops – representing an attempt not only to recycle these objects as objects of beauty, but also to recover the discarded cultural refuse which they represent. The space is arranged like a chapel, lit in the style of arched church windows and decorated everywhere with lilies. Sound fragments from the old records are electronically layered over each other, playing at different speeds and using their gaps and static as percussive elements. One of the collective begins to sing live hymns in a resonant, powerful voice. Beneath her singing, the loops, skips, and scratches build to a climax, ending with different vocal and instrumental versions of ‘Amazing Grace’ pouring out of every record player in the room. This attempt to recover what has been lost is decidedly contemporary. It feels as if what is recoverable is only the distance between, the glance toward, the view from here and the desire to look back.

Each morning of Experimentica, Chapter have hosted an artists’ breakfast for discussion and sharing of ideas. In Sunday morning’s discussion, one of the themes was the use of pain and extreme acts in live art. I was struck by the way in which the presentation of the body in pain can fall on different and contradictory points on an axis between authenticity and inauthenticity. These acts can symbolise the real, the unfakeable, the live presence of the performer and the co-presence of spectators. But they can also symbolise the spectacular, the theatrical, the sensational hook which draws in audiences and solidifies an artist’s fame.

These tensions were at work in Helena Hunter’s ‘Tracing Shadows’, the final performance of the festival. In comparison with the rest of the work in the programme, Hunter brings a veritable arsenal of theatrical tricks: projections and pulleys, meticulous control over sound and lighting, and darkness as cover for theatrical sleight-of-hand to create surprise images for the blinded audience. And yet its central concern is Hunter’s barely visible body, her naked back twisting and straining in the most of sparse of light. In brief glimpses through the blackness we see blue ribbon pouring onto her body, a child’s dress appearing in the darkness, and Hunter’s body writhing and breaking in an attempt to fit into the impossibly small dress. These elements create a fairy tale world that combines the seductive and the destructive, the childlike and the adult, desire and the artificiality of desire. Like fairy tales themselves, this is completely contrived work which falls very much within the mechanisms of the theatrical, and at the same time it is eerie, compelling, and haunting.

Theron Schmidt has been writer in residence throughout Experimentica 07, and is part of Writing from Live Art (www.writingfromliveart.co.uk), a Live Art UK initiative.

sunday night

entering the media point to see and feel the day long event of sound of aircraft attacking britain you are catapulted into a sort of no man's land of sound , image and bodies- effects lights glisten like a concert- the fusion of the music is quite beautiful in a desolating way- moments build then fade as a sort of tension invades the space- it is hard to experience the holistic quality of the piece stepping in off the street for 20 mins- i would have liked to have tased it for longer to gain a deeper insight but my time was sufficient to be thrust into this no man's land where anything could happen- it reminds me of godspeed yr black emperor's lift yr skinny fists to heaven album, with epic moments rising and falling into brooding nothingness then exploding again.........it is a brave and unpretentious piece that challenges our comfort zones and provokes many questions- perhaps blair and brown could listen for a while.just in case..........

then to the "tracing shadows" piece- almsot a church like feel to the entrance and waiting in darkenedsilence- feel myself wanting ot hear a voice but have to rein in those literary needs to focus on the figure that is sprawled on the floor lit by a dim almost grey light-
sound effects and music were beautiful and truly transported the audience into this silent world this feminine world we are watching like voyeurs- at times it is almost painful, other times almost erotic, an ebb and flow of a life of lives fading and growing living and dying- on the theory of moments as i let myself go with the piece and transcend gender and time - i owudl have liked more intro as to why this dress was important and what drives woman to this dress but the getting into it and the moments after are very beautiful, very moving ,very real- it made me think of a woman's body trapped and used by man for his own ends and a poem i have jsut written about female genital mutilation......
(for waris dirie)

eyelids down
drenched in righteousness
spitting venom upon innocent skin

to secrecy
steeped in indignity
parading as,
cultural identity,

stapled sexuality
an egotist's litany
controlling lives
with rusted knives

stitched virginity
with thorns of masculinity

the mouth clings to memory
as blood in dirt
an indelible history
drowned in theocracy

even diamonds slip to insignificance
as the price of purity
rises as does
the perpetual misery

be it religion or cultural
that shape the fear of the clitoral
all are evil and genocidal

eyelids open
drenched in morality
spit reason
upon decrepid ritual

and after returning home tonight the images of the dancer/actor have stayed indelible in my mind and
i was inspired to write a stream of consciousness poem/song/statement born out of this tender fusion of body spirit and society.........................


where drought drips
and doom looms,
like eyebright nectar
suck deep the fissure
of life lipping love
to where growth escapes.

against the grain
like evening rain
for earthshine
we must glow
feed our roots
so we may use our once wings,
spring sprung songs
of growing,
leaftaste on trembling tongue
branchburst birth
streamshimmer and mountainmarch
i know sapflow,
must go
to grow,

and fulfill those skywrote dreams,

that ground our feet.

thnak you helena hunter for yr beautiful moving and challenging piece......................

so, thanks for allowing me to share my thoughts on experimentica- it has been enlightening- rage on....

Experimentica - Day 4 - On framing

Alongside the live performance programme at Experimentica have been a variety of film screenings and installations. These have been too numerous for me to give detailed consideration to here, but one common aspect which struck me was the relationship of the image to its frame – that is, of the relationship of image to itself as image. Soozy Roberts describes using deliberate ‘naivety’ and ‘stupidity’ as an approach to making her short film, and so they are a hit-and-miss affair. Some of the ideas which seem like interesting performance ideas end up being lacklustre in their filmed versions; but conversely, some seemingly simple ideas gain in complexity and richness from being filmed. ‘Divided face’, for example, shows a head-shot of the filmmaker drawing intersecting grid-lines on her face. Perhaps not a very interesting performance proposition, but rendered two-dimensional in the flat world of the film screen, there’s something very intriguing about the effect of her staring out of the image in this way.

Chris Holtom’s short ‘Camera Frame Experiments’ explicitly explore this relation of image to its frame, as the frame becomes an active, physical element in the world being filmed, rather than an abstract entity in the idea-world of the image. So as the camera pans through an image of a cup on a table, for example, the encroaching frame knocks the cup off the table. John Rawley’s ‘Do Something – Do Nothing’, described by the artist in a previous blog post below, expands the idea of frame to include both the experience of filming and of viewing. Individuals were filmed for an hour each, alone in a room with a static camera, with no instructions or prescriptions except that sound would not be recorded. The results are shown in one of Chapter’s small screening rooms, so one’s experience of them is that of being sat in comfortable cinema seats before the nearly real-size image of someone else who is both alone and aware of being watched. It’s a very strange relationship to have to someone else, and there’s a complex layering of permissions and power relations. These became even more apparent when, after having been alone in the screening room for some time, I was joined by another spectator walking into the room. The intimate one-to-one relationship instantaneously became an impersonal relationship of spectators to image.

Neil Davies’ live performance sets up a striking physical framing effect, covering most of the studio theatre’s floor with a large rectangle of salt. In what seems to be a largely improvised performance, he makes tense, muscular movements exploring the lines of his body’s rotation and strength. As his hands make sensuous contact with his own body, his feet make parallel traces in the salt, exposing the black floor beneath. It’s very self-involved work, and there are possibly too many different ideas being pursued here, with some of the most effective ideas being also the most simple ones. The visual effect of the lights slowly rising and falling on his lone figure against the luminous square, for example, are very strong. One direction in which the piece could be developed would be to work with an awareness of its visual effects and how it appears to its spectators, rather than with the internal experience of the body and the salt, which only the performer can feel.

In Joost Nieuwenburg’s durational ‘Common Sense’, the artist occupies an even more restrictive frame: a 3 foot high by 8 foot by 8 foot square box installed in Chapter’s dance studio. Inside this space, only able to crawl, Nieuwenburg has a stove, a sink, and several kilos of onions. For four hours, he peels and chops the onions, adding them to a pot which is always cooking. A swimming pool ladder at one end of the box invites us to climb on top, from where we can see him through a small vented porthole placed directly above the simmering pot. Another small window on one of the sides gives a different view of Nieuwenburg at work. From both windows, the smell and the heat are overpowering, as is the image of Nieuwenburg sweating and crying inside. It’s an exquisitely well-crafted experience: the beauty of the object itself in the room, the seductive glimpse of another world, and the sweaty, pressurised labour going on inside.

Theron Schmidt has been writer in residence throughout Experimentica 07, and is part of Writing from Live Art (www.writingfromliveart.co.uk), a Live Art UK initiative.

saturday visitations

there was a great energy on friday at chapter- i finished my reading which i enjoyed and to have more than 17 people in the audience for a poetry reading is a result!- hung around savouring the atmosphere- good place to be-
saturday and i am looking forward to sampling a few other events- - have to admit the camera frame experiments by chris holtom did absolutely nothing for me- i mean come on taking a picture of a fucking vacuum cleaner then labelling it " vacuum" does nothing for the soul does it?- i do struggle with these sort of artists - i want to shake them and say get a grip do soemthing say something make.me.feel.something. in this deadening world we inhabit why give up and almost say wel lthis is it- this is it. maybe thats the point i do not know?- i just do not get it. and before all the avant garde jump on me or maybe pour fucking apple sauce over me in a happening i do not always want to GET IT but need to feel soemthing need to feel the hair on the back of my neck stand feel my stomach churn in soem vicarious empathy- need to want to say i disagree with you- or indeeed feel ihave communed with something someone as arthur miller said- " he wanted his plays to make people feel less alone" well the camera thing made me feel like saying fuck it life is boring and shit and you ARE ON YR OWN MATE NOw fuck off!-what a waste of a photographic opportunity to explore the human condition...............
sorry- got carried away maybe that is the point!
now in response to our friend in the tank- first of all when i went in- he wasn't even in there- people bending down to see this feat of human endurance, starign thorugh the masses of onions and spilled tears to catch a glimpse of the new david blaine- and he wasn't even there- he'd popped out for a quick piss and maybe to see his mate doing the photos of the vacuums and other soulinspiring stuff- oh come on, ...."l'art est inutile, vont à la maison"...........
it makes me think of a truly great artist.............one who continues to inspire and provoke

"You cannot acquire experience by making experiments. You cannot create experience. You must undergo it."
Albert Camus

right onto peppermintpatti presents- planningtorock- the pitch seems interesting and something with a bit of feeling and actual creativity-- but before we get to that- who were those two idiots on stage dressed in a red kagool with a silly mask that squashes their faces in cycling shorts pretending to run to some bad european music that was probably number one in iceland in 1982 so they think it is cool cos no other fucker has heard of it so is art- well let me tell you this- it is not- my 5 yr old son knows more about art and the act of creation than those two sad fuckers- what is it? were they ignored at school so have to be noticed in any fuckign way possible which on last nights evidence means to be as pathetic and silly as possible doing absolutley nothing of any value- human social emotional artistic economic anyfucking thing but act like ah i cant even find the words to represent my rage at this- but it is done is a smug " oh you dont get our oh so cool act so you're retards and we are the coolest actor artist cultural creator in this fucking room" syndrome-- i was more pissed off with the audience who actually encourage such spectacle by looking at what they were doing and finding a better vantage point to see the confederacy of the dunce dances and shake their adult forms in kid like nutterdom!- say no NO!NO!- then, they walk off stage their egos stroked like bin laden's dyed beard and walk into the audience offering sweets - oh yes it must be a homage to their idle youth sat in cinemas watching old films thinking of theday when they could be stars and see their name in lights and the audience will bow before them- so they have a little torch and walk through the thick audience handing out sweets- you heard it right fucking sweets- oh you are so ironic! when there is death, bombing in baghdad, religions ruling our days, women stoned, houses repossessed and a minimum wage of £5.35 these two fuckers walk around in some darkened room handing out sweets with a high pitched moronic voice-i am sorry but i do not get it and I DO NOT WANT TO GET IT-improvised- bollocks- make it up as you go along more like - look- if you are going to get on a stage and ask people to pay hard earned money to see you, take some time, think about what you are doing, let the spirit take you, maybe even read a book, but please please, be professional, be human, say something.............SWEETS SWEETS, SWEETS, SWEETs!!!!- bored bored bored ironic of course- they probably think they are more dangerous than an al qaeda suggestion box but really theye got as much to offer the world as the problem page in nuts magazine-
phew- thats better than a a dose of the heaven and earth show- maybe thas the point!!
on to janine rostron- sort of a mini zoo tv with a feminine touch- now here you pair in the red kagools and plastic masks look and learn- she's thought she's created she's delved into something and actually worked at it- the music is claustrophobic and epic at different times, sort of takes you away from yourself into another space- i like this- the images fade in and out we follow a business man on a train, nothing happens yet the music makes things happen- interesting i like it i like how i feel- i let loose theres a robbie fowler lookalikey next to me lost in his own world moving to the beat spilling his beer but it doesnt matter we are all in this together yet allowed to find the individual journey we choose- theres a more montage let video that aches for release the music pumps and beats into my arteries i follow the imagery not really caring where it wil ltake me- nice, releasing, searchign finding i like these words and my mind is given space to create my own picture- i have never heard of janine but i believe her, i feel her creation i acknowledge her work and that she knows and is in control what she is creating- it makes me feel like creating myself makes me want to be part of the universe.........
she ends the screen goes dead- i wanted more i wanted more music and images to thread me into her world and................... that my redkagoolled fakers ............... is art....................................

Experimentica - Day 3 - Production of space

In this third day of Experimentica, I was intrigued to follow the various ways in which performers produced the space they occupied. With ‘Sky, Earth and Stars’, South Korean dance ensemble Atmen (Open Theatre) used so far the most unusual performance space: Chapter’s inner courtyard, an outdoor space cluttered with picnic tables, ramps, railings, and a spiralling staircase. As electronic music begins, three male performers enter the courtyard and take up a series of static positions, in each pose directing their gazes along precise, straight lines. As they move with confident clarity between positions, this has the effect of ‘warming up’ the space itself: the whole courtyard becomes energised with their passage through it.

The three men are eventually joined by a woman descending the staircase, followed by a violist performing live. Their subsequent improvisational dances are fluid and dextrous, each dancer having slightly different takes on a signature style. Having activated the space, the space continues to hold them all together, which enables them to be in sync with each other without having to perform identical movements. They remain attentive to the particularities of the courtyard, and so the courtyard continues to resonate with their passage long after they are gone.

Moving indoors, I came into Karl Price’s ‘installation performance’ while it was already in progress, and I was always aware of the feeling of being an interloper throughout the performance. I think this unease at being present is one of the deliberate effects of the work: in this space, it feels transgressive to be here. Price is naked, moving through the space with a palpable sense of anger or fierceness, while another naked man is seated with a plastic bag over his head playing a toy accordion into a microphone, producing a regular sound like breathing. At the conclusion of the piece, Price burns a tiny paper house in his palm, holding it past the point of pain until he extinguishes the flame with his other hand. He then uses sandpaper to rub his hand until it bleeds, shakes hands with each person in the room individually, and then leaves.

I was struck by the sudden transformation in the room once he left, even though the other performer was still present (but blinded by the bag). There’s a sense of relief as the audience’s unknowingly held breath is released, and audience members begin to examine the artefacts of the performance: finding out what was in the bag he drank from, looking closer at the ash and rubbed-off sandpaper dust, and finally feeling able to look at their own hands, something which seemed prohibited while he was still in the room. It would be fair to say that the room without Price was a completely different room from the one he was in.

In her examination of the neuroses and obsessions of office work, Australian performer Rosie Dennis creates an appropriately claustrophobic sense of space. Working within a small square of bright light in the corner of an immense dark room, she performs what might be called the dance of the accountant: her arms, head, and torso moving in a mechanised attempt to describe and account for overwhelming sensory data; her breath working arhythmically like the sound of information escaping. As we gather around her, agreeing silently amongst ourselves the appropriate distance to leave between us and her, she begins speaking, obsessively working and reworking words and phrases as if there might be some line of escape within them or that might emerge from their exhaustion. What’s effective about her performance is her detailed control over the tempo and volume of both her words and her actions, so that she is able to draw the room in closer and closer around her.

Dennis shared a double bill with South Korean artist Jeong Geum-Hyung, whose performance is, for me, the highlight of the festival so far. It can be appropriately described as a puppetry duet with a vacuum cleaner, but this underwhelming description fails to capture the fantastical, magical, and disturbing work that Jeong does. The long hose of the vacuum cleaner is given a man’s face at its end, with its gaping suction hole for its mouth. Throughout the piece, this face appears to be the only animated thing in the room, the rest of Jeong’s body completely lifeless and inert. In a reversal of roles, the face-object appears to manipulate Jeong’s body to its own desires: lifting her to her feet, rolling her across the floor, and ultimately using her as an object of its own bizarre and disturbing sexuality. The effect should be comical, and at times it is, but it is not the comedy of the absurd but of that which is portrayed with absolutely truthfulness and perfect execution. The piece works within the realm of control and manipulation, of animation and death – which is exactly the realm of puppetry, but I had forgotten how exciting it can be.

Theron Schmidt has been writer in residence throughout Experimentica 07, and is part of Writing from Live Art (www.writingfromliveart.co.uk), a Live Art UK initiative.

Experimentica - Day 2 - Secret lives

If there was a common thread to this second day of Experimentica, I guess it would be that of secret lives and alternate identities. I missed Traw and Emma Macey’s mash-up of sound and video due to the length of a panel conversation between eminent Wales-based theatre-makers on the history of Chapter Arts Centre, part of an ongoing oral history series called ‘What’s Welsh for Performance? / Beth yw ‘Performance’ yn Gymraeg?’ So the first show of the day was Tom Marshman’s ‘Finding my Inner Cowboy’, an endearing if slightly rough-about-the-edges performance monologue recounting Marshman’s attempts to become a cowboy over the past six months.

As the audience enters, there’s a video playing of Marshman on the phone with a friend while a few days into this project. Marshman describes his desire to emulate the strong, silent type – he names Montgomery Clift (in Red River) and Heath Ledger (in Brokeback Mountain) as particular icons. He likes the idea of ‘someone who doesn’t say very much’ but still ‘gets his point across’; in contrast, Marshman says, he always feels like he says and does too much. Almost immediately, this point is made: Marshman leaves the stage and returns wearing nothing but a thong, boots, holster, and cowboy hat, dancing enthusiastically to country music with a US flag held between his buttcheeks.

‘Finding my Inner Cowboy’ continues to work with these contradictions, and with both the obvious and inadvertent points of connexion between cowboy and queer culture. Marshman seems torn between a deep melancholy, the cowboy’s silent longing ‘that dares not speak out loud’, and an irrepressible exuberance that seems inescapably part of who he is. This enthusiasm positively lights up his face in footage of him trying to ride a fairground mechanical bull, or during a country and western line-dance that involves members of the audience. Just when I find myself wishing that Marshman would stop fighting this contradiction and become the cowboy he wants to be, this is exactly what he does: looping a lasso to opera music, then giving up the lasso in favour of a jump-rope (while the opera continues), and finally becoming the kind of cowboy who falls in love with a spaceman. It’s unabashedly personal work, but its strength is in these personal moments rather than in its funny but obvious pokes at cowboy culture.

Leaving Marshman’s show and returning to the foyer, we find that Deborah Light, as her alter ego Angelica, has taken over the theatre box office – perhaps this is ‘the secret life of the box office attendant’?. She is wide-eyed and innocent, her face in a fixed stare like a lost doll. With bright pink tights and eyeshadow, she bounces uncontrollably to electronic music while attempting to come to terms with a matching pink phone or the pink notices pinned up on the box office walls. Over the evening, the music ranges from opera to children’s songs, and Angelica is alternately sedative, hyperactive, and plaintive. The first reaction from passers-by seems to be bemusement, particularly from those who are there to partake in the Chapter Arts bar’s celebration of Oktoberfest. There’s also a hint of voyeurism, arising from the power differential between the spectators outside and the performer inside a glass room, in which she was at times only partially visible. But the length of her performance (from 9pm until the arts centre closed after 11.30) means that she seemed gradually to become part of the fabric of the place and of the time – like the box office attendants whose place she has supplanted and whose ‘performance’ we take for granted. Oh her? She just works here.

I expected that Beth Greenalgh and Sam Hasler’s ‘Maps’ would fit this unfolding idea of secret lives, as the programme notes suggested that the piece was dealing with Hasler’s journey from a Sainsbury's on the other side of town where he works to the performance space – a journey which (on foot) takes the length of the performance slot. So I was anticipating a commentary on the dual lives of performance artists, or of Sainsbury's workers. This connection was occasionally made: a phone call from Hasler from somewhere on his journey, the delivery of polaroid photos of him into the performance space, a map of the journey marked out on the floor with Sainsbury's brand paprika. But really the piece is much more about Greenalgh’s wait, and the audience’s wait with her.

In a semi-enclosed white space within the larger studio, Greenalgh, in a slinky dress, drinks copiously from a bottle of wine and reads slightly noir-ish, slightly surreal scenes from a script into a microphone. Behind her, a video projector shows images of her which highlight the photographic process itself: old-movie style graininess and light flares, cinematic poses, and manipulation of light and colour. Elsewhere in the space, someone plays a bass guitar for the duration of the piece. There’s a dreamlike quality to this waiting, and when a trembling and out-of-breath Hasler finally arrives, carrying two four-bottle packs of Sainsbury's water with a flower in each bottle, it’s a continuation of this surreal world not the triumph of the real one.

Theron Schmidt has been writer in residence throughout Experimentica 07, and is part of Writing from Live Art (www.writingfromliveart.co.uk), a Live Art UK initiative.


2-10pm Thursday 18 October - Saturday 20 October
Chapter Viewing Theatre

The video portraits presented as part of the project Do Something/Do Nothing were all shot in Cardiff and Swansea between September 2006 and March 2007.
All of the 'sitters' had responded to an advert, requesting volunteers to particiapte in a video-art project. Everybody who responded to the advert was invited to come and stand in front of a camera in an empty room. There were to be no real directions
on how to act or what to do and the only instruction was to stay within a certain boundary, in front of the camera, for a period of one whole hour. Once the camera was rolling I left the room, only to return after the hour was up. After the first period was over, with a rest being taken, the participants were then asked back to sit for one more portrait, this time for a duration of 30 minutes. The only difference being this time that I provided them with stimulus for a period. I asked them to consider one of a number of things, these included asking them to think about rooms that had played an important role in their lives or to think about lovers, past and prsent or even bad things that they had done for which they now had regrets. For me, it wasn't really important what they were actually thinking about, more that they were absorbed in a thought process, which I could then attempt to capture on film.

John Rowley

Experimentica - Day 1

I’m Theron Schmidt, a writer with Live Art UK’s Writing from Live Art initiative. James and Cathy at Chapter Arts have invited me to Experimentica as writer in residence, to act as an outside eye and also – as I intend to see as much of the festival as I can – to have something of an overview of the whole festival.

In this first day, I am reminded that experimentation involves looking backward at the past as much as it involves looking forward for the unknown. There are certainly plenty of echoes of early twentieth century Dadaism and performance art in this early twenty-first century festival, from goodkopbadkop’s absurdist posturing, to electronic music collective Submotion’s reference to Erik Satie in their programme notes, to Mr & Mrs Clark’s wonderfully provocative cabaret.

goodkopbadkop’s ‘A late change to the advertised programme’ is a tribute to pre-World War One Welsh entertainer and filmmaker William Haggar. While a video screen shows predominantly static images reduced to indistinct, monochrome blobs, two performers give alternating one-sentence descriptions of film scenes, presumably from Haggar’s work. These descriptions seem typical of early cinematic melodrama or comedy, such as ‘a man is chased into a pond and tarred and feathered,’ ‘the funeral of six lifeboatmen,’ or ‘a fight between a knight and a tramp.’ There’s an obvious refusal of the expectation to entertain – highlighted by the room’s decoration with tinsel curtains and the performer’s ridiculous make-up – which becomes entertaining in its own way. But I also wonder how much is forestalled by this insistence on an alienating experience, in which even the performer’s voices are electronically distorted to become at times indecipherable.

By comparison, Anthony Shapland’s film exhibition elsewhere in Chapter Arts (simultaneous with Experimentica) similarly plays with the relationship between events and their description, but to different effect. ‘Last Dance’, for example, shows a repeated loop of the film of a seemingly forgettable and hapless last dance before the lights are turned on in a mediocre nightclub. Each loop features subtitles describing the actions of a different pair of actors in the event. Written in present-tense and using references to stage positions, these descriptions are also instructions, as in a film script, and the end result is not just comical but also increasingly engrossing, as the viewer is drawn more and more into the action.

Gareth Llŷr and Louise Ritchie’s ‘On Running’ also works with the tension between description and event, beginning provocatively with an audio recording of the performers describing in future tense the way they imagine the show will begin, while they physically prepare the real space in ways which both do and don’t mirror their prediction. As the show’s music begins, the performers create a series of stationery but dynamic dances in response to video stimulus from small TVs they carry, and over time prepare the space for a final series of running back-and-forth to exhaustion before a large video projection. In another language in which it wouldn’t be such an odd phrase, this piece might equally be called ‘On Lapping’, as it evokes the circular, repetitious movement of running laps but also a complex structure of overlapping: of the performance space and the outer world, and of the space of preparation for the piece and the piece itself. As stimulus and response are folded back into each other, the description of the event supplants the event itself. In a way it feels as if the piece never happens, but also never stops happening: the final words of the piece are ‘he begins’. But with all these experiments into form, it’s hard not to leave the piece without wishing there had been more content – it’s a clever structure, but one not made to bear too much weight.

Finally, Mr and Mrs Clark’s ‘Cabba Hey’ is a crowd-pleasing closer to the day. Framed within the cabaret format, the audience expectation is that this is comedy, and this frame allows ‘the Clarks’ to be as experimental as they want without ever worrying about being labelled pretentious. They start with bags over their heads, and in a series of musical skits strip them off only to reveal or assume more and more masks. Disavowing the seriousness of what they do, they can actually be increasingly serious: upon closer study, their piss-take choreography is more choreography than piss-take. When they perform a ventriloquist act with live dummy, it is both absurdly hilarious and heartbreakingly earnest, a balance that has everything to do with their detailed attention to their performance. If cabaret (in the Dadaist tradition) is insurrectionary theatre, then this is insurrectionary cabaret, in that what makes it pleasurable is its more and more clever deferral of pleasure. And so, one of their closing numbers does literally what the Dadaists attempted metaphorically, flicking off its audience – and the audience loves it.

Theron Schmidt has been writer in residence throughout Experimentica 07, and is part of Writing from Live Art (www.writingfromliveart.co.uk), a Live Art UK initiative.

Tracing Shadows

Looking forward to coming to Cardiff and taking part in Experimentica 07!
Below is a some information about Tracing Shadows which is on Sunday 21st October @ 9pm

About Tracing Shadows

Tracing Shadows is based on The Girl and the Blue Dress a ‘coming of age’ fairytale that explores the idea of femininity as a construct, as something that is made and fabricated, then imposed on the body. In the story a young girl struggles with an enchanted blue dress that steals her voice, sews itself to her skin, and takes over her body and movement. Tracing Shadows contains all the characteristics of fairytale, with its dark undercurrents and psychoanalytical themes, its allusions to magic, the supernatural and uncanny, however, the performance avoids linear narrative and instead presents a series of physical and visual scenes that explore the process of female initiation addressed in the tale.

Helena presents the body at different stages of transformation and collapse. The human figure half emerges from the darkness, alone and trapped, struggling to stand, sliding into formlessness. Helena sculpts movement out of the darkness, using subtle traces of light, fragmenting the body and creating an eerie sense of displacement. Often movements are half- seen, the body is half-glimpsed, and light plays tricks with the eyes and imagination distorting perspective, space, size and shape. Sound mirrors and magnifies the action, adding weight, texture and solidity to the movement, emphasising the physical struggle that ensues. The imagery is surreal and striking, as light, sound, movement and shadow fuse together creating a hypnotic and disturbing experience that activates and engages the imagination.

‘In Tracing Shadows Helena Hunter sculpts with her body the dark conflict between inner and outer selves; this is a hallucinatory and uncompromising act of self-portraiture with powerful contemporary resonance’
Marina Warner

Submotion - Listen Online Here!

7pm Wednesday 17 October 2007

Submotion is a collective of seven improvising musicians based in Newport, whose live objective is to create an original sonic environment to be enjoyed incidentally, rather than in conjunction with a performance spectacle. By fusing acoustic and electronic instruments, sonic imperfections are playfully explored, but never disrupt the equilibrium of the environment. It amounts to a compelling live ambience, atypical of many public spaces.

'We would like to receive audio files (WAV, AIFF or MP3)of original material- anything from the tiniest of sounds to elaborate concotions - based on your interepratation of our performance. An emphasis is based on this interpretation, providing listeners with creative influence over the direction of the music. If you like what we're doing, add to it; if it doesn't interest you, suggest a new direction to take. In return, upon receiving your contributions, we will interpret them further into the mix.
To submit material we recommend the use of a file transfer service, such as www.yousendit.com, with the transfer addressed to submotion_collective@hotmail.co.uk. This method allows us to continually receive your audio files without reaching our email's storage limit'


Tuesday 16 October
7.00pm Lapse at TactileBOSCH

Wednesday 17 October
6.30pm Goodkopbadkop
7.00pm Submotion
8.00pm Gareth Llyr and Louise Ritchie
9.30pm Mr and Mrs Clark

Thursday 18 October
2.00pm onwards John Rowley
6.00pm What's Welsh for Performance (at UWIC)
7.30pm Traw & Emma Macey
9.00pm Tom Marshman
9.30pm Deborah Light
10.00pm Beth Greenalgh and Sam Hasler

Friday 19 October
2.00pm onwards John Rowley
6.00pm Atmen
7.00pm Mindsniffer
7.00pm Karl Price
7.30pm Patrick Jones and Dave Lordan
8.30 pm Jeong Geum-Hyung/Rosie Dennis
10.00pm The Panacea Society plus Special Guests

Saturday 20 October
2.00pm onwards John Rowley
2.00pm onwards Chris Holtom
4.00pm Film Programme
5.00pm Joost Nieuwenburg
6.00pm Atmen
7.00pm Jeong Geum-Hyung/Neil Davies
9.00pm Planningtorock

Sunday 21 October
2.00pm onwards Chris Holtom
11.00am onwards S.A.A.B
4.00pm Korean Artist Talk
5.30pm Rowan O'Neill
7.30pm Gwrando
9.00pm Helena Hunter

Lapse@tactileBOSCH - Tuesday 16 October

To coincide with Experimentica, the Llandaff North-based studios and gallery space tactile BOSCH transforms its Victorian Laundry building home to present an evening of international live art. Featuring Tim Bromage and Karl Price, Beth Greenalgh, Joost Nieuwenburg, Rufus Orsbourne and Rachel Parry.

"Live art with all it unpredicitable and often cryptic visual references opens up a debate long enough to kill itself again"

Lapse is part of Addiction Saturday 22 Sep - Sun 11 Nov 2007

Welcome to Experimentica 07

A performance can last a life-time, or it can be over in sixty seconds. Experimentica 07 is a six day festival of live and time based art at Chapter Arts Centre in Cardiff,a place where different forms of expression can jostle up close to you, or keep a safe distance. Experimentica is an opportunity to taste what artists are thinking about, with artists that live just around the corner, or some that have travelled from the other side of the world. It may mean sitting in front of a video screen for 6 hours, or walking into a room where you have no idea what will happen next. We hope you will enjoy the journey.